University welcomes visitor from down under

The vice-chancellor of Australia's Charles Darwin University has visited Shropshire to learn more about the origins of the naturalist from whom it takes its name.

Prof Simon Maddocks and his wife Vicky spent time at the University Centre Shrewsbury at the invitation of deputy provost Paul Kirkbright.

It followed a visit by Mr Kirkbright to the Australian university in February to create links between the city of Darwin, Australia, and Darwin’s home town of Shrewsbury.

Prof Maddocks and his wife toured Ironbridge with Prof Tim Jenkins, head of arts and humanities at the Shrewsbury centre, as well as Flax Mill and Darwin-specific sites such as the Shrewsbury library and The Mount.

Mr Kirkbright said: “While half a world apart, the universities have quite a bit in common, from our shared heritage in Darwin and our rural locations, to the young age of both institutions.

Prof Maddocks said it was a pleasure return the visit, and said there were clearly a range of academic and research opportunities of relevance that could be fostered to mutual benefit.

"I enjoyed seeing Shrewsbury’s amazing and largely unheralded heritage and innovative past, including the Flaxmill and key landmarks of Charles Darwin’s early life, as well as the environs of Shrewsbury that helped stimulate his interest in natural sciences," he said.

"It was a particular privilege to visit the Taylor Library at Shrewsbury School to see some of Darwin’s correspondence and a first edition of On the Origin of Species, amongst the treasures held there."

Charles Darwin University is the only university located in the remote Northern Territory of Australia, which is home to just one percent of the continent’s population.

While just 25 years old, Charles Darwin University is now ranked in the top two per cent of the world's universities, with a reputation as one of the most innovative teaching and research-intensive universities in Australia.

The University leaders discussed potential collaboration in joint areas of science and rural health care, as well as the possibility of Shrewsbury bioscience students joining their Australian counterparts for their annual research trip to the Galapagos Islands.

Shrewsbury’s Darwin Festival and Darwin Day in the Australian city were raised as further areas of partnership.

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